People often talk about wanting to improve their personal brand. For quick understanding - your personal brand is how other experience you when they interact with you. David McNally and Karl Speak, authors of ‘Be Your Own Brand’ explain it further, “Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.”
It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that we want the world to see. It is the telling of our story. It reflects in our conduct, behaviour, spoken and unspoken words, and attitudes. And when it’s done well, it can enhance our profile in ways that go far beyond just our professional expertise.
I am sure you must be have seen some successful examples of Personal Branding within your peer group. You might have even seriously considered starting with a branding exercise yourself; or you might already be putting a thoughtfully constructed branding strategy into action as I write this. Regardless of which stage of personal branding journey you are currently passing through, networking is a crucial aspect that deserves some deep thought and strategizing.
Naturally, you must already be networking and meeting people as part of your operational activities, but is that useful for your personal brand? Most people tend to think that an organizational meet and greet will automatically feed into their personal brand!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. As you are representing your organization at networking events, you naturally end up talking more about your work or your company’s reputation. This does not equate to networking for your own personal brand.
The more connections we make—and the more value we can provide in our interactions—the more likely it is that our personal brand will be recognized. The best networking opportunities for our personal brand are cultivated over time and consist of a combination of integrity and quality that we can offer to people. Michael Goldberg puts it succinctly, “Networking is simply a proactive approach to meeting people to learn with the hope of helping them.”
Even for an experienced hand-shaker like you, there is always a way to add to your business bonding skills. Here are some ways to up your game:
You are the sum of many different things – your work is just one of them. You have to bring the elements of your personal branding message into your official interactions. In case you haven’t yet crafted a personal branding strategy and elevator pitch or a message, then now is the time to decide how you want to present yourself. A very simple example of this would be - If you want to present your down-to-earth, straight-talking credentials to the world, then you can eschew jargon-heavy, indirect talk and stand out as the person who says-it-like-it-is.
Be a giver, and you will be remembered! You don’t have to be a giver in the material sense; even being generous with your time and attention is sometimes enough. While interacting with peers at an event or even online, try to maintain an overall aspect of helpfulness. Advice, encouragement, a compliment, referrals, and sharing connections – all don’t require much effort, but when done consistently, these small acts of kindness will undoubtedly add to your personal brand.
It’s important to know who’s going to be at an event, which we can often do by checking social media – conference hashtags on Twitter are a good place to start. Then make a shortlist of people you want to meet. Google them and view LinkedIn profiles, so that when you do meet someone new, you will know something about them.
People often think that networking means meeting as many people as possible. But that's not the case. Making a few meaningful connections is far better than working an entire room. If you can have three or four deeper conversations, then both you and the people you meet will be more likely to remember the interaction.
You don’t have to keep your online and offline networking efforts siloed. Use them as an extension of each other. Follow up meetings and interactions by connecting with people on LinkedIn or engage with your LinkedIn community to organise physical meetups at events.
Engaging with people online is important for people of all ages, but particularly if we want to make contacts with younger prospects or companies working in a digital space. Remember, though, nothing solidifies a business relationship like meeting face-to-face.
By making networking a priority and regularly reaching out to people from different fields, you can broaden your network even outside your industry. You never know where your next opportunity is going to come from.
Yes, it can sometimes be a challenge to network for your personal brand. Many of you may feel a bit uncomfortable with the concept of personal marketing; after all, being self-effacing or not bragging are ingrained in our collective psyche as admirable qualities – and personal marketing does require some amount of blowing your own trumpet which might put you off!
I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be like this! Sure, you can share your photos or videos of receiving awards and giving talks, but that is just one part of it. The rest is all about respect and trust; it is about being truly helpful and kind to people in your circle; it is about valuing your contacts and not taking your friends and business connections for granted.
Networking is a long-term investment. You don’t have to bombard your social media feed today! But do keep the tips I shared above in mind and practice them gently. With time, you will feel at ease, and nurturing your personal brand will slowly become second nature.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
To be truly listened to is an amazing experience, partly because it is so rare! When another person is totally with you – leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathize – you feel seen and understood. When people feel that they are really being listened to, they open up more as they feel safe and secure and the trust between the parties grows.
Unfortunately, most people do not listen at a very deep level as they are preoccupied with the challenges of their fast-paced life. As a result, most conversations tend to skim on the surface.
The absence of real listening is especially prevalent at work. Under pressure to get the job done, we listen for the minimum of what we need to know so that we can move on to the next fire that needs fighting. So, what’s the consequence of this? Everyone is talking, no on is listening. As a result, employee engagement has become a serious issue in organisations today.
This is becoming a bigger problem in this COVID scenario as employees are dispersed and the conversations are very transactional and brief. Leaders seem to have become busier and more distracted in recent times.
How often are you as a leader distracted in a conversation or a meeting with your team? How often are you as a leader not psychologically present when you are virtually with your team? How often do you cancel, interrupt or shorten meetings with your people in favour of some other stakeholder, priority or task? How often do you make your people wait, ask, or even hope for your leadership? Ironically, now more than ever, leaders need to be deeply and continuously connected with their teams.
What your team needs right now is authentic and unequivocal leadership presence. So, turn off the noise in your head. Turn off the noise from your technology. Focus your mind and your time on the people you lead and they, in turn, will follow and support your leadership efforts.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to take the time to connect, to show that you care about your employees as people. Listening deeply will also help you understand what their challenges and expectations, and gives you a chance to share what your intentions and goals in a way that everyone can be aligned.
Listening is a skill that you can gain from training and practice. And who better to learn if from than coaches. Effective coaches tend to be gifted listeners and they hone their listening skills to reach a high level of proficiency. This enables us coaches to reach the inner recesses of your mind and help you get those deep insights.
In the book, Co-Active Coaching, Henry and Karen Kimsey-House explain the three levels of listening and how the art of listening can be cultivated.
Level 1 listening is an interaction where the primary focus of you as the listener is on your own thoughts, opinions, judgments, and feelings. You relate the words you hear to your own experiences or needs. For example, if we are buying a car, we will be listening at Level 1 to the salesperson to see how the car features will fit our needs and budget.
Level 2 listening takes the communication one step further. It involves paying attention to the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. As you filter out your internal chatter and distractions from the environment, you are able to tune in to the meaning of the words, choose a way to respond, and assess the effect of the response on the speaker.
Level 3 listening brings an entirely new state of awareness to the conversation. It involves doing everything at Level 2, plus using your intuition and being open to receiving more information in any form that it presents itself. If you get a hunch, for example, while listening to someone, you could bring it up without being attached to it. Without insisting on being right, observe the effect it has on the speaker and be aware of where the conversation goes next.
For instance, you may say: “I understand that you are happy with the results, but I have a feeling that you have something else on your mind.” The response may be, “No, not really,” or “Yes, actually, I wanted to tell you about this issue that came up with our project.” It is irrelevant if you are right or wrong; what is important is the effect on the conversation.
So, there you have it – why it is important for you as a leader to hone your listening skills and how you can enhance your depth of listening. The art of listening takes time to develop, but it can be practiced daily. It builds trust and understanding and contributes significantly to your effectiveness as a leader.
If you want to discuss further, just schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking this link above.
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